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Upgrades & Downgrades: Exxon Mobil Not Yet Out of Gas


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

Stocks started February in fine fashion as better than expected earnings reports and economic releases propelled the Dow to its best single session performance since the first trading day of 2010. The stars of My Name is Khan rang the Nasdaq's opening bell but over on the NYSE it was more a case of My Name is Icahn as news of the corporate raider's resignation from Blockbuster's (BBI) board sent the stock surging 6.67%. Exxon Mobil (XOM) revealed its 2009 profit fell to $19.4 billion and Uncle Sam said its 2010 loss will rise to $1.56 trillion.

On a day awash in pork Smithfield Foods (SFD), a major producer of the meat, fittingly rose 2.19%, testament to the desire of the loins. While Washington once again failed miserably to tighten its belt, the Buckle (BKE) saw its stock gain 3.82%, Ron Burkle sent Barnes and Noble (BKS) up 18.0% after-hours and Frank Buckles, the last living American to fight in the First World War, turned 109. December pending home sales are out at 10:00 AM Eastern and earnings season continues as Aflac (AFL), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Dow Chemical (DOW), Emerson Electric (EMR), Entergy (EHB), Hershey (HSY), Marathon Oil (MRO), MetLife (MET), News Corp (NWS), Novo Nordisk (NVO), and United Parcel Service (UPS) all announce results.


Deere (DE): Deere is initiated at Hold by Morgan Joseph as its shares currently appear fully valued.

Credit Card Stocks: Sanford Bernstein starts MasterCard (MA) ($329 target price) and Visa (V) ($104) with Outperforms on each as the secular shift from paper-based payments to electronic payments should bring attractive volume growth.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD): Goldman Sachs adds Advanced Micro Devices to its Conviction Sell List.

King Pharmaceuticals (KG): Jefferies assumes coverage on King Pharmaceuticals with a Hold ($11 price objective).

Qwest Communications (Q): Goldman removes Qwest from its Conviction Sell list.

Hershey Foods (HSY): Credit Suisse resumes coverage on Hershey Foods with a Neutral and sets a $40 price target, saying sentiment is already extremely negative and its P/E valuation is at a 15-year low.


Credit Card Stocks: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch lifts American Express (AXP), Capital One (COF), and Discover Financial (DFS), all now Buy from Neutral.

Exxon Mobil (XOM): Bank of America/Merrill also moves Exxon Mobil to Buy from Neutral, suggesting that "the impact of recent deal uncertainty unwinds from here".

Motorola (MOT): SocGen upgrades Motorola to Hold from Sell.

Metal Stocks: Citigroup raises its recommendations on Alcoa (AA) and Freeport McMoRan (FCX), both to Buy from Hold.

Thomson Reuters (TRI): The stock gets increased to Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital, which takes its target to $43 from $41 due to an extremely attractive risk-adjusted return potential.

Schnitzer Steel (SCHN): The stock is boosted to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Anadarko Petroleum (APC): Lazard Capital lifts Anadarko Petroleum (Buy from Hold). For a related story, see The Bullish Case for Oil and How to Play It.

Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR): Acorda is added to the Focus List at JP Morgan.

Qwest Communications (Q): Piper Jaffray upgrades Qwest Communications, now Overweight from Neutral.

Orbital Sciences (ORB): The stock gets an Outperform-from-Market Perform increase at Wells Fargo.

China Unicom (CHU): Macquarie raises its China Unicom rating to Neutral from Underperform.

Southern Copper (PCU): Citigroup takes Southern Copper to Buy from Hold with an objective of $38. See also, The Outlook for Commodities.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM): Merriman moves Akamai Technologies to Neutral from Sell based on an expected rebound in CDN demand from the Media vertical and continued growth in usage from existing customers.

CNOOC Ltd (CEO): Chinese oil stock CNOOC Ltd is boosted to Buy from Neutral with a $192.80 price objective at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.


Colonial Properties (CLP): The stock is cut to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital. The price objective is now $12 from $13 as the broker believes 2010 comparisons will be more challenging.

Jacobs Engineering (JEC): Goldman lowers Jacobs Engineering (Sell from Neutral).

K-SEA Transportation Partners (KSP): The stock will hope not to tank after an Equal-weight from Overweight reduction by Barclays. The price objective is also lowered steeply, to $10 from $26.25.
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